Russian-flagged ships transport Ukraine’s grain to Syria, Maxar says

Barley is loaded onto a cargo ship in the international port of Rostov-on-Don. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 16 June 2022

Russian-flagged ships transport Ukraine’s grain to Syria, Maxar says

  • Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing grain from the territories that Russian forces occupied since its invasion began in late February
  • Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters

WASHINGTON: Russian-flagged ships have been carrying grain harvested in Ukraine last season and transported it to Syria, US satellite imagery company Maxar said on Thursday.
Maxar’s images showed two Russian-flagged bulk carrier ships docked in the Russian-controlled Crimean port of Sevastopol in May and being loaded with grain, the company said.
Days later, Maxar satellites collected images of the same ships docked in Syria, with their hatches open and semi-trucks lined up ready to haul the grain away, Maxar said. Syria and Russia are staunch allies.
The company said another image from June also showed a different ship being loaded with grain in Sevastopol.
Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing grain from the territories that Russian forces occupied since its invasion began in late February. The war threatens to cause severe food shortages as Russia and Ukraine account for about 29 percent of global wheat exports.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters, and Western countries have accused Russia of creating the risk of global famine by shutting Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
On June 8, the deputy head of Ukrainian agriculture producers union UAC said that Russia has stolen about 600,000 tons of grain from occupied territory and exported some of it.
Russia calls its action in Ukraine a “special military operation” claiming its aim was to disarm and “denazify” its neighbor. The West and Ukraine say this is a pretext for unprovoked aggression.

Libya’s flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities

Updated 58 min 45 sec ago

Libya’s flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities

  • The government invites the international community to participate in the conference planned for October 10 in Derna
  • The conference is being held in “response to the demands of residents of the stricken city of Derna and other towns that suffered damage”

BENGHAZI, Libya: Libya’s eastern-based administration said on Friday that it would host an international conference next month in the flood-hit port city of Derna to aid reconstruction efforts.
A tsunami-sized flash flood broke through two aging dams upstream from Derna after a hurricane-strength storm lashed the area on September 10, razing entire neighborhoods and sweeping thousands of people into the sea.
“The government invites the international community to participate in the conference planned for October 10 in Derna to present modern, rapid projects for the reconstruction of the city,” the administration said in a statement.
It said the conference was being held in “response to the demands of residents of the stricken city of Derna and other towns that suffered damage” during the flooding.
Wracked by divisions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed veteran dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has for years been ruled by two administrations vying for power.
A UN-backed, internationally recognized administration in the capital Tripoli is run by Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, while a rival administration in the east is backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
The official death toll from the flood stands at more than 3,300 — but the eventual count is expected to be far higher, with international aid groups giving estimates of up to 10,000 people missing.
The International Organization for Migration on Thursday said more than 43,000 people have been displaced by the flood.

Debris and dead bodies clutter flood-hit Libyan port

Updated 22 September 2023

Debris and dead bodies clutter flood-hit Libyan port

  • Tugboat captain Ali Al-Mismari, 60, recalled the night of September 10 when torrential rains caused by Storm Daniel battered the eastern Libyan city
  • Captain Mohamed Chalibta, head of the port authority’s crisis management committee, said the search was concentrated on “objects that had sunk in the port”

DERNA, Libya: Libya’s devastating flood has transformed Derna from a busy port welcoming fishing boats and ships loaded with goods and passengers into a dump brimming with rubble, car wrecks and dead bodies.
Tugboat captain Ali Al-Mismari, 60, recalled the night of September 10 when torrential rains caused by Storm Daniel battered the eastern Libyan city, bursting two dams and wiping out entire neighborhoods.
At first, Mismari told AFP, he wanted to take his boat, the “Irasa,” out of the harbor to avoid putting the crew at risk and to avoid damage to the vessel.
But in the chaos of the storm, with water levels rapidly rising, he was unable to see the seawalls surrounding the port and navigate a safe exit.
“There was nothing (to do) but pray,” he said.
When day broke, the scale of the devastation became clear.
Mismari said he saw “massive trucks, car tires, people, houses, entire palm trees... heaters, washing machines, refrigerators” had all been washed into the harbor by the flash flood.
The official death toll from the disaster stands at more than 3,300 — but the eventual count is expected to be far higher, with international aid groups giving estimates of up to 10,000 people missing.
Since the tsunami-sized flood lashed Derna, port workers, fishermen and passers-by have largely abandoned the seafront, and only a handful of vessels, the Irasa included, were still there.
The tugboat was enlisted along with local and foreign teams to clear the bottom of the harbor.
The walkways surrounding the port are now paved with items retrieved by divers.
Captain Mohamed Chalibta, head of the port authority’s crisis management committee, said the search was concentrated on “objects that had sunk in the port,” including cars with people still thought to be inside.
An Emirati team, equipped with boats and jet skis, scoured one part of the harbor.
But the water was dark brown, filled with mud brought by the flood, and there was virtually “zero visibility,” according to one of the divers.
The Emirati search mission chief, Col. Ali Abdullah Al-Naqbi, was giving directions to his team, stressing the need to take full precautions.
Two by two, scuba divers secured with safety ropes descended from their yellow boat.
One emerged from the muddy water after a short while, and said: “We tied (a rope) to a car. We can’t see anything.”
Another diver meanwhile found a second car.
Back on their boat, other team members helped the divers remove foliage that had become stuck on them and sprinkled fresh water on their faces.
The Emirati team, in coordination with Libyan authorities, called in a crane that pulled one of the mangled wrecks out the water.
As it was being removed, mud, water and what appeared to be human remains spilled out of the vehicle.
Lowered onto the dock, Libyan men in white coats, gloves and face masks took over to check the vehicle for bodies, but on this occasion they found none.
Officials expect the process of clearing the port to take a long time.
Rescuers are also searching the sea beyond the harbor, with maritime experts saying many bodies may have been carried eastward by the current.
Hafez Obeid, head of the Libyan forensic team, said the salinity of the water helps to preserve bodies, making the identification process easier than for corpses found on land.
Aboard the Irasa, captain Mismari said “private fishing boats were the first to rush to the rescue” on the night of the disaster.
Next to him, technician Taoufik Akrouch, 61, recalled that “the water level rose above the dock by about one and a half meters (five feet).”
The Irasa began tilting violently and the crew started its engines before cutting mooring lines.
At dawn, they heard a cry for help.
They found a survivor — a naked woman floating inside a refrigerator, according to two crew members.
They said she asked them: “Where is my sister?“
Another survivor rescued by Mismari’s team, an Egyptian, could not say how he got to the harbor.
“He had been sleeping, and then found himself there,” Mismari said. “Maybe he had been unconscious.”

SRMG Think’s MENA Forum launches on UNGA sidelines

Updated 22 September 2023

SRMG Think’s MENA Forum launches on UNGA sidelines

  • Event, hosted in partnership with Middle East Institute, themed ‘Reinforcing Global Resilience Through Sustainability’
  • Speakers include Jordanian, Egyptian, Emirati ministers and US envoy for Yemen

NEW YORK: SRMG Think Research and Advisory launches its second annual MENA Forum on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday, in partnership with the Middle East Institute.

The one-day event will host a raft of leading figures and voices on the Middle East and North Africa, addressing the forum’s theme “MENA: Reinforcing Global Resilience Through Sustainability,” including contributions from diplomats, state policymakers and private-sector players.

Among those set to contribute will be Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ayman Al-Safadi, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat, the UAE’s Climate Change and Environment Minister Mariam Almheiri, and US Special Envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking.

SMRG Think said the forum will address MENA’s evolving status as a “dynamic hub driving new trends and contributing to the global agenda,” as well as its growing leadership role on the world stage.

The forum will also deliver “unparalleled insights” into the region’s position on “energy transition, global peace and stability efforts, and economic sustainability.”

The event follows the recently published MENA Forum report “The case for cooperation beyond de-escalation,” which addresses key dynamics concerning regional cooperation amid political and economic tensions, focusing on geopolitics and security, economics and energy.

Neil Quilliam, director of energy at SRMG Think, said: “As (MENA) continues to achieve its development aspirations and evolves into an engine for global growth, it has become increasingly important for governments, businesses and decision-makers to understand the region.

“However, there is currently a lack of actionable insights that these entities and individuals can rely on. In light of this, a MENA-focused UNGA side event, featuring invaluable perspectives from the region, is more crucial than ever. 

“The MENA Forum fosters open and frank discussions on the economic, political, and environmental challenges and opportunities present in MENA through the lens of regional leaders and the brightest thinkers.” 

MEI President and CEO Paul Salem said: “As the world confronts challenges around energy transition, climate change, economic diversification, trade, and human security, the MENA region remains a focal point where all of these complex dynamics converge.

“It is critical to bring leaders and policy practitioners from the region to engage with the international community in order to build on common interests and opportunities for a better global future.”

L’Oréal-UNESCO celebrates decade recognizing pioneering Arab female scientists

Updated 22 September 2023

L’Oréal-UNESCO celebrates decade recognizing pioneering Arab female scientists

  • Saudi researcher ‘grateful to work in a country and a region that celebrates and promotes women in sciences’
  • Program essential to addressing the systemic gender bias by raising the profile of female scientists

DUBAI: While only 33 percent of global researchers are women, in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, countries like the UAE boast a notable 61 percent of female university STEM students.

This trend extends to Saudi Arabia, where 60 percent of science graduates are women.

On its 10-year anniversary, the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program, in partnership with Khalifa University of Science and Technology, celebrates female Arab scientists changing the landscape of scientific research in the region.

“The extraordinary accomplishments and dedication of women scientists in the region have paved the way for progress in various fields, influencing everything from healthcare and technology to environment sustainability and space exploration,” said Sarah Al-Amiri, UAE minister of state for public education and advanced technology and chair of the UAE Space Agency.

This year’s award ceremony marks a decade of supporting the research efforts of 51 female Arab scientists from the GCC with endowments totalling 3.4 million dirhams ($924,695).

Investing in and increasing the visibility of women scientists contributes to advancing research and addressing the region’s pressing challenges.

“My research is highly translational, driven by real-world problems affecting people’s health and wellness both locally and globally … enabling greater accessibility to high-quality minimally invasive healthcare tools for cancer diagnosis and precision medicine,” said Dr. Dana Alsulaiman, Saudi post-doctorate researcher and L’Oréal-UNESCO award winner.

According to Alsulaiman, miniaturized and cost-effective diagnostic tools developed at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology could transform the field of healthcare, and clinical decision making like early diagnosis, and effective therapy selection.  

In August 2023, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a new strategy for KAUST, focusing on turning research into economically beneficial innovations, including environmental sustainability research.

For Lila Ali Aldakheel, a Saudi doctoral student and L’Oréal-UNESCO award winner, whose research focuses on identifying sustainable solutions for plastic pollution, waste management and reduction of the environmental impact, “there is a noticeable deficiency in research concerning the examination of micro-plastic pollution in Middle Eastern oceans and mangrove soil, as well as its repercussions on the environment and human well-being.”

The L’Oréal-UNESCO Young Talents Program’s objective is to build a diverse and inclusive ecosystem enabling and celebrating research and scientific advancement. This year’s award ceremony recognized the achievements of women in science, from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.

The program holds a unique position in the GCC. “While the program’s foundation remains the same globally, it is the distinct advancements of the GCC region concerning women in STEM that sets it apart,” declared Laurent Duffier, managing director of L’Oréal Middle East.

“The outstanding research quality and pioneering contributions of these women amplify the GCC’s leading stance. Instead of simply bridging the gender gap, the region, with the aid of our program, is setting a global benchmark for empowering women in science,” he added.

The GCC is home to what the award winners collectively highlight as key for success: access to adequate support, recognition, and the availability of opportunities to take their research beyond the lab stage.

“I’m grateful to work in a country and a region that celebrates and promotes women in sciences, particularly with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 emphasizing the importance of STEM in driving innovative solutions to global problems like cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases,” Alsulaiman told Arab News en franҫais.

The program is essential to addressing systemic gender bias by raising the profile of women scientists and supporting the growth of their careers, by providing access to resources, network, and mentorship.

“Equal representation matters because it brings diversity of perspectives, fairness and equity to the field, all of which are necessary to create a robust scientific community that can further innovation to counter societal challenges,” declared Dr. Tamara Elzein, the program’s jury president, and the secretary-general of the National Council for Scientific Research in Lebanon.

Associated to the program for the fifth consecutive year, the Khalifa University of Science and Technology underlines the essential role women play in driving scientific progress, technological innovation, and societal development.

“We need to continue creating such avenues of growth and support for (female scientists), which will lead to the long-term prosperity, security, and wellbeing in the region,” said Dr. Arif Sultan Al-Hammadi executive vice president of KU.

The program reflects the change in the regional landscape, the untapped potential of its human capital, and is an indicator of countries’ commitments to education.

“It is heartening to see the growing talent pool in the region, where women in many countries are graduating with STEM degrees at rates surpassing their US and European counterparts. We are looking to create a ripple effect, ensuring that the next decade and those beyond witness an even stronger wave of Middle Eastern women leading, innovating, and setting global standards in science,” added Duffier.


The 2023 Middle East Regional Young Talents

PhD students:

Sara Ishaq Alkhoori (UAE) — Research on examining eco-friendly biofuel production to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change, yielding universal benefits.

Lila Ali Aldakheel (Saudi Arabia) — Research on identifying groups of microorganisms that can break down plastic to manage waste and help the environment.

Post-Phd Researchers:

Dr. Noha Mousaad Elemam (UAE) — Research on developing early breast cancer biomarkers with the goal of understanding cancer progression and achieving better patients’ survival rates.

Dr. Dana Alsulaiman (Saudi Arabia) — Research on addressing challenges in cancer diagnosis through advanced biosensing platforms to enhance early disease detection and better prognosis globally.

Fatma H. Al-Awadhi (Kuwait) — Research on exploring the marine biodiversity in the gulf region for untapped therapeutic potential.

UN must reform to remain relevant, says Lebanon’s former ambassador

Updated 22 September 2023

UN must reform to remain relevant, says Lebanon’s former ambassador

CHICAGO: Lebanon’s former United Nations Ambassador Amal Mudallali said there is growing pressure to reform the 78-year-old international body in order to force its five founding members to share power with the rest of the world and keep the organization relevant.

The UN was founded in 1945 and consists of two major bodies: the UN Security Council, which includes five founding members with the power to veto any action or proposal; and the General Assembly, which has grown from 51 members to 193 today, and can adopt resolutions with moral authority, but no enforcement.

Mudallali acknowledged that although the UN has had some successes, failure to reform combined with growing inequity between nations of the “global north” and “global south” has resulted in a rise in competing but narrowly focused international coalitions such as BRICS, which was founded in 2010, but in recent years has become much more influential.

“If you look at the last 78 years, the world averted a big war, a third world war. And I think a lot of it has a lot to do with the fact that all these big powers and small powers and all these countries sit together there and work on trying to find solutions, and that is very important. It avoided a nuclear war. It created a big, huge system of development, helping poor countries around the world everywhere,” Mudallali said during the taping of “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” on Wednesday (Sept. 20, 2023).

“The problem is that the system that was created after the Second World War has not been reformed. It has been so static. There has been no change, no reform. Because the big powers who are now, and they gave themselves more power by creating the Security Council and they have veto power. They are the ones who control whether there is any change or not. The big powers are the ones who can do it.”

Mudallali added: “There is a new movement in the United Nations and the General Assembly to challenge the veto because the veto is preventing the Security Council from any decisions that are very important, and central to peace and security, especially when you need it when you have like the war in Ukraine. The Security Council has been gridlocked and there has been no resolution on Ukraine.”

Failure to reform has resulted in many nations contesting the old power structure that the UN of 1945 represented compared with the changing world balance today, with the rise of small groups of independent member-nation organizations, such as BRICS and the G20.

“But today, as we talk, it is really an interesting General Assembly because it comes on the heels of the BRICS meeting in South Africa. It comes after the G20 meeting, where the global south is rising. Their voice is rising. There is a new narrative now. They are telling the north, as people say, that things are not going to go on as business as usual,” Mudallali said.

“We need reform and this time our life depends on it. Because the international world order that we set up in 1945 and that served the world beautifully for the last 78 years and advanced economies, social issues and prevented wars, but now is not working. Because it has to be more equitable. It has to represent the diversity, that the world has changed. Because the volume of the world economy and the power is shifting. There is a shift in dynamics from the north to the south. There is a shift in the dynamics of power, not only the economic power but the political power. People are contesting the order.”

Over the years, the world has seen the rising influence of new limited member-nation coalitions, such as BRICS and the G20, seen as competing with the UN, which is supposed to represent the interests of all nations on all issues.

Groups such as BRICS, founded in 2010 by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have grown significantly since the start of the Ukraine war. BRICS has raised some concerns about its intent, to “contest the international order” or “undermine the domination of certain countries” such as the US, Mudalalli said.

“If BRICS’ only objective is to change the order, it means like if it is international competition with the US only, this is not going to be good for anybody. But if they are doing it because they really want to reform the system and they want to have a better way, a diversified way of doing business with everybody, I think that would be good,” said Mudallali, now a respected international affairs analyst.

“And, then, maybe you can see, hopefully you can see a constructive role they can play in the international economy and this. But it really not good for the world if it is seen or it is perceived as only a competition between the US and China, and the world is being divided now into groups. If you weaken the UN, and if you weaken the state institutions that you put there to bring peace and security and economic prosperity and stuff like that and to get the world to work together, and you go and work outside it, this is very dangerous and this is no good for world peace.”

Many “global south” nations are wondering if the UN can be inclusive to address their needs, Mudallali said, noting that the UN plan to advance 17 Sustainable Development Goals is halfway through its 10-year timeframe and has achieved only 12 to 15 percent of its stated goals.

“As long as these countries, what you call them the global south, the rest of the world — not the Security Council and the big powers — see that they have no stake at the UN, and they see there is no movement to be inclusive and be representative of the world as it is today, you are going to see a very divided world order,” Mudallali said.

“You are going to have a splintering of different groups, people shopping for different alliances and things like that, because the central forum for bringing them together, to work together, is being weakened if it is not being reformed.”

The dramatic growth of debt among countries of the global south is of immediate concern, Mudallali said.

But it was discouraging that the leader of only one of the Security Council’s founding members, the US, addressed the UN General Assembly this week, with the leaders of Russia, France, the UK and China absent.

Mudallali made her comments during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show,” which is broadcast every Wednesday in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 Radio and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700 radio on the US Arab Radio Network. 

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting